In late September, the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that is charged with safeguarding employees’ rights to organize as unions, became Republican controlled. And the panel lost no time reversing prior Obama-era rulings that affected employers.
“They clearly came to the board knowing what they wanted to do,” Wilma Liebman, a former Democratic NLRB member who once served as chairwoman, said in this National Law Journal report.
Just this week, the board overturned three big regulations that will impact thousands of employers going forward.
On Thursday, the board changed an Obama-era definition of “employer” to one with “direct” control instead of “indirect.” The change affects the potential liabilities that employers — particularly those using staffing agencies or with franchises or contractors — could face regarding labor violations, collective bargaining agreements and other employee benefits.
On the same day, the NLRB overturned a prior precedent regarding employee handbooks. The “gift” to employers, according to this National Law Review article, overturned a past standard which “barred employee handbook policies and other work rules that could be “reasonably construed” by employees to prohibit the exercise of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Obama board used that standard in invalidating numerous handbook policies over the years from social media policies to rules limiting recording devices and more.”
Finally, on Friday the NLRB “made it tougher for workers to form so-called micro unions made up of small groups of a company’s employees, reversing an Obama-era decision that had been sharply criticized by companies,” according to this Reuters report. “Forming smaller bargaining units can be a key organizing strategy for unions, particularly when they lack support from a majority of an employer’s workforce. But business groups say that smaller bargaining units fracture workplaces.”
The Trump Administration promised to roll back Obama-era regulations on businesses and the NLRB’s actions this past week are doing just that.